Minimizing Open Loops to Maximize Productivity

Minimizing Open Loops

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Minimizing Open Loops

When it comes to getting the most done as possible in a given day, it’s vital to think carefully about the sequence in which you tackle your tasks. Doing the right job first and the appropriate job last can potentially save you hours – even more so if they rely on other external factors and create open loops. This post from the Managing Time to Maximize Productivity series will help you do just that.

What is an Open Loop?

An open loop is anything that you’ve started on that has been left ‘unresolved’ and often that involves other people or a potentially stressful/anxiety-inducing exchange. Examples include: calling back a client to discuss future work, having an awkward conversation with a service provider who has let you down, negotiating a better price on some supplies.

And it’s not just in our work lives. Open loops exist in our personal lives, too, like texting a friend to tell her you can’t attend her baby shower or calling your credit card company to ask for an interest rate reduction.  

It’s any task that you know you need to do, but you don’t really wanna. 

A big open loop for me was reading emails on my cell phone during my non-working hours. I wanted to open the email and read it because, duh, I’m nosy, but I didn’t want to reply on my phone because I’ve got fat fingers, and typing on the phone is THE WORST. 

So, what’s the big deal with open loops? 

Open loops crush our productivity in a couple of different ways.

Having an unresolved task keeps our brains from entirely focusing on the task at hand. Your brain so wants to be your bestie, and it does everything it can to remind you of the little things it thinks you will forget. As you start to drift off to sleep, your brain screams, “You’ve got to tell Sarah you’re not coming to her baby shower.” In the shower, your brain chimes in, “This reminds me, you need to talk to Sarah.” As you open Facebook, there’s a picture of Sarah, and your brain prompts you, yet again, of the unfinished task. 

Your brain loves you. But it’s kind of a relentless jerk sometimes. If you’d just do the task already, it could focus on more important things, like remembering all the lyrics to No Diggity

The more open loops you have, the more at risk you are for procrastination. And procrastination impacts your mindset, your confidence, and increases anxiety. 

Open Loops, Workflows & Productivity 

Imagine you are working on a large project, like presenting a seminar. The high-level task list may look like this: 

  • Create the presentation
  • Book the venue
  • Market the event 
  • Hire staff
  • Sell tickets 

You’re stoked about your seminar, so you start looking at venues. You have a couple of meetings, but you haven’t determined your budget yet, so you can’t commit to a site. Open Loop.

You create your budget and narrow it down to one venue, but the date you had your heart set on is no longer available. So now, you go back to the other places. Open Loop.

You have a date and a venue, and you’re ready to start marketing the event. You create gorgeous videos and banner ads but haven’t set up your ticketing sales platform. Open Loop. 

Because you didn’t strategically think through the workflow, every time you move forward on one task, you have to stop and tackle a different, necessary task, leaving the first task unresolved and incomplete. And leaving your brain to worry, worry, worry that you’ll forget.  

Preventing Open Loops 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of blah, blah blah.

The majority of our open loops can be prevented entirely by committing to resolving everything as quickly as we can. Stop deferring decisions and act with a sense of urgency. Look, you already know you don’t want to go to Sarah’s baby shower {it’s not you, Sarah, it’s me}, that your VA dropped the ball and it can’t happen again, that you can get your supplies cheaper somewhere else. You already know what you need to do. So, put on your big girl panties and do it! 

Be strategic in creating and managing your To-Do list. If tasks have dependencies on other tasks or people, you can’t complete them until those issues get resolved. Yes, some jobs are more fun and easier for you to do, and but starting a task, only to make it linger in a holding pattern until you can address other tasks will cost you time and be a nasty hit to your confidence. 

Closing the Loops 

If you have open loops that are hanging over your head, take a half-day to close them. Write ’em down, get ’em done, and breathe a sigh of relief. 

Are you ready to make the most of every day, and get more done than you ever thought possible? I’d love to send you my e-book, The Pillars of Productivity, and bonus tips for free-fifty-free! Sign up here.

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